How a $500,000 Job Was Not Good Enough For Ray Gillenwater Of SpeakUp


Ray Gillenwater abandoned an executive job that paid him $500,000 a year at BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) and went on to launch SpeakUp. The amazing app has allowed a large number of employees to do just that, speak up, about the problems they see in their organization. SpeakUp emerged out of frustrations that Gillenwater encountered firsthand while working for BlackBerry. At 27, Gillenwater was the youngest BlackBerry executive when he left the company three years ago.

SpeakUp is an app that allows employees to share ideas and insight with managers and allows others to contribute to the shared idea. For example, after an employee posts a solution to an existing problem, other employees can comment, vote on the solution or ask questions. SpeakUp allows employees to interact with the managers virtually so that they can help shape the direction of a department or the whole company for better performance. The app provides the option to use it anonymously or named.

Not for everyone

SpeakUp came to the limelight in September and has been adopted by 400 companies spread across 380 cities around the world. According to Gillenwater, SpeakUp is not for every company, of course not for companies like BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (at least at the time he was there 3+ years ago), whose communication style he knows very well. Gillenwater said that the app is for companies that really care about what their employees think, but not the kind of companies that just desire employees keep their heads down and work.

For the companies that want their employees to contribute ideas and solutions to problems, SpeakUp helps because it also provides a way for the employees to communicate their thoughts safely.

Frustrations that gave way to SpeakUp

Gillenwater encountered two challenges while working for BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) that encouraged him to think about a solution. The first case was when he was leading sales in Indonesia, one of the markets where BlackBerry still has a faithful following. When Gillenwater was about to ink a $40 million purchase order for Black Pearl, their newest phone, he realized that BlackBerry lacked a marketing plan. He was forced to trace down the VP of the region at the airport to communicate the problem.

The other incident occurred when he was promoted and moved to the Australia and New Zealand region as the general manager. While there, he realized it was difficult to learn about the weakness and strength of the team in the region. That was another frustrating moment for Gillenwater.

SpeakUp co-founders

After he abandoned BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY), Gillenwater teamed up with his California friend Keith Barney and co-founded SpeakUp. Organizations can now take advantage of the app to encourage employees to speak up on the issues they may want added, removed or done in a different way for better results.

Neha Gupta

Neha Gupta has been in the financial space for over six years now. Gupta earned her MBA degree from Symbiosis Centre of Distance Learning in 2009 and her passion for finance led her to pursue Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course. She has successfully completed Level II of her CFA. She is a veteran in article writing, which is depicted in her numerous pieces published on SeekingAlpha, Nextiphonenews, InsiderMonkey, MarketWatch, and Techinsider. Her crisp and eloquent writing finds its best place in Researchcows, where emphasis is given on developing rich content for various websites, products, business plans, trainings, and book writing.

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